The "tomato king" of southern Italy, Antonio Russo who controls AR Industrie Alimentari (Aria), has been convicted in a local court of fraudulently passing off his cheap Chinese tomato puree as Italian. When police raided the plant they found the tomato puree imported from China. It had gained the "Produced in Italy" label by having some water and salt added and then being canned in Italy. A lower court ruled that such "minimal" processing was insufficient to justify the labelling.
According to the prosecutor, Chinese tomatoes would arrive in Salerno in one ton barrels in the form of triple concentrate. The only processing they received was to dilute the concentrate with water, add salt, and produce 142 gram pasteurized cans with a white label on a red background, that read: "Asda puree double concentrate. Produced in Italy for Asda Stores Ltd, Leeds". The lower court ruled that such "minimal" processing was insufficient to justify the labelling under EU law.
Russo, who is appealing the case, defends himself by saying that because he did process the Chinese concentrate in his plant, he could label it and sell it as Italian.
The prosecutor, Roberto Lenza, does not suggest that the Chinese tomatoes were of poor quality. Lenza says he is attempting to preserve the image of Italian food, "We were, and are, facing a big problem for the protection of the "Made in Italy" label and, above all, for the protection of consumers, especially considering the foreign markets for this product, and the respect it usually receives precisely because of its Italian origin."
Interestingly, there doesn't seem to be the same attention paid to framesets made in Asia which are labeled as "Made in Italy". We previously have discussed the subject of "transformation" as it relates to bicycles in which a product isn't made in Italy but can be transformed to an extent that it meets the criteria for being labeled as being "Made in Italy".
"Euro-Lex" Council Regulation (EEC) No 2913/92 of 12 October 1992 establishing the Community Customs Code, Article 24, specifies, "Goods whose production involved more than one country shall be deemed to originate in the country where they underwent their last, substantial, economically justified processing or working in an undertaking equipped for that purpose and resulting in the manufacture of a new product or representing an important stage of manufacture."
What still remains unanswered is what constitutes substantial? economically justified? representing an important stage of manufacture? Is applying decals substantial? Is a final finish or adding components to a frame important stage of manufacture?
Or, is it like adding salt and water to Chinese puree?
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